Day 1: Burns in imperious form

With positions changing repeatedly in his wake, Richard Burns has been a rare constant over the first day of Rally New Zealand. Reigning champion Burns, who hasn't yet won for the Peugeot team has dominated the rally's opening leg south of Auckland around Raglan

Day 1: Burns in imperious form

Peugeot, who need just three points to secure a third successive manufacturers' title, hold the top three places and have not been seriously challenged all day. Harri Rovanpera and his Finnish team-mate Marcus Gronholm tracked Burns over the first six stages, the latter already facing the probability that he will not claim the victory that would secure an early title.

Fourth place Jani Passonen has been a revalation. Mitsubishi hadn't set a single fastest stage time since last year's Safari Rally and so there was great celebration when he topped the time sheets on SS5. Paasonen had just a week's notice that he was required to stand in for the injured Alister McRae, but his form has impressed. Team-mate Francois Delecour has not reported any problems all day but has not been able to come close to Paasonen.

Colin McRae lost his chance to challenge for the crown when he misheard a pacenote on today's fourth stage and stuffed the Ford Focus over a bank and into retirement. "It wasn't even a car's length off the road," he reflected, "but a fence post had damaged the radiator and when we tried to get the car out it started to overheat. Even if we'd got back on the road I doubt that the car would have reached the service park."

Petter Solberg and Tommi Makinen have generally been the 'best of the rest' today and Solberg was looking at a stage win until Paasonen pinched it on SS5. However, as in Finland, the Subarus will have to hope that something sinks the Peugeots if they are to win this weekend.

With Kenneth Eriksson the first major retirement of the event after brake failure sent his Skoda sliding off the road on SS2, Skoda is down to just Toni Gardemeister but the Finn is being left behind by Hyundai's Freddy Loix and Juha Kankkunen with just Armin Schwarz behind of him in the third Accent.

Group N is led by Production Car Championship challenger Kristian Sohlberg ahead of Kiwi Reece Jones and local hero Possum Bourne. Championship leader Karamjit Singh retired his Proton early from an event where victory would have secured the title.

Two brief Super Special Stages are still to run today, covering a total of 4km.

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Day 1 am: Burns leads, McRae out

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